Traverse City Record-Eagle


The Third Debate

Cathy Stripe LesterAmericans supposedly don’t care about foreign policy, but they come absolutely unglued when it comes to “security.” Maybe they should make a connection between the two. I mean, security threats come more often from foreigners than from Front Street.

Writing before the debate, I expect Mr. Romney to attack President Obama for being “weak.” So what does Mr. Romney consider “strong”?

1. Mr. Romney is really, really enthusiastic about helping the Syrian rebels to oust Bashar Assad. Never mind that the GOP criticized Obama’s effort in Libya back in 2011. Never mind that they’ve been attacking  the president for having American boots on the ground “in harm’s way.” Helping Syria now just sounds real nice. So, do we do it ourselves? Fly in, send over the troo…  oops. Act of War. Another war. In the Middle East. Oh, brilliant.

Or, we can give lots of arms to the rebels. Uh-huh. Remember, not all the factions in Syria like us. I would have thought that finding our SCUDs being used against us in Afghanistan would be a good lesson in NOT handing out arms like trick-or-treats.

NATO helped in Libya, but they have cold feet this time. There’s such a mishmash of conflicting forces and splinter groups in Syria that NATO doesn’t seem to know which leg of the spider to pick it up by.

2. At the same time as Romney wants to help the Syrian rebels, the GOP is attacking Obama for the whole “Arab Spring” business. They say, Obama didn’t shore up our pet dictators, and now all those Arab countries are going straight to  the radical jihadis. They mention Egypt and Libya in particular.

President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt is from the Muslim Brotherhood, true. However, the MB is not Al-Qaeda. They shun Al-Qaeda. The MB consider themselves moderates. They’ve been after fair and free elections since they were founded, back when Egypt had a king. Morsi won fairly, without even having Diebold rig the voting machines! Hotcha!

Mr. Obama understands little distinctions. Foreign policy is a lot about nuances, but neither Mr. Romney nor the GOP are good at nuances. Anyhow, to Romney and his ilk, Morsi’s election is a “failure” of Obama having approved (not even given any material support to) the Tahrir Square protesters.

So do we really want other nations having democracies? Because if we do, we have to accept that they’re free to make choices we might not feel particularly cozy about. Respecting their choices, whether we like them or not, will gain us respect in return. However, it seems Mr. Romney doesn’t believe in oppressed people ousting tyrants unless they become Egypto-Republicans.

In Libya, the death of Ambassador Stevens was a terrible tragedy. It showed us that even after peaceful elections, there are still radical groups there with more power than anyone realized. But are the Libyans eagerly flocking to the Jihadists? No, actually, after Mr. Stevens’s death, the Libyan people raised such a stink they forced their government to remove the radical leaders of some of the semi-wild militia groups. If grassroots democracy in Libya is becoming empowered enough to take on radical forces, THAT’S progress!

Now for the biggie: Iran. I’m going to write more about that later but for now I’ll just mention that Mr. Romney first said that Iran shouldn’t have nuclear weapons, and then he said the Israelis should attack if it looked as if Iran might get the capability for weapons, and now he’s flipped back to merely “having nuclear weapons.” Seems he really likes the idea of attacking them, doesn’t he?

Mr. Romney has said he would “respect Israel’s right to bomb Iran.” This is a popular GOP position. Earlier this year the GOP tried to pass a law giving Israel the right to attack whenever they choose, whether Iran has a nuke or not. Never mind that the USA would get the blame. Never mind that the Pentagon has said 1) the USA would most likely be “dragged into a war,” and 2) war with Iran would be “disastrous.” Incidentally, the price of oil would skyrocket. (Though many of the super-rich have demonstrated that they don’t give a fig how many wars we get into; the higher the price at the pump, the more they make. And their sons usually aren’t in the military.)

As of Sunday, the Iranians have announced that they’re willing to talk. Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel immediately said the Iranians are only trying to “delay.” Well, if we never talked because it could be a “delay” we’d never talk to anyone.

The new talks would be the first time we’ve negotiated directly with Iran since 1979. This is historic, but Mr. Romney is sure to call direct talks “weak” and “misguided.”

President Obama is aware of the consequences of any attacks. Sometimes it takes more backbone to NOT get into an unnecessary fight than to charge in, six-shooters blazing, or to bluster and sabre-rattle.

Mr. Obama managed to stand up to Netanyahu when the Israelis tried to bully him into letting Israel bomb Iran. Remember the fuss? Netanyahu obviously thought Obama was in a tough position, needed the Jewish vote, needed AIPAC money, and would cave in to his nutty demands for a “red line.” So Obama stood up to ALL THAT, and that’s “weak”? That takes cojones, my friends.

Incidentally, I would have thought that trying to “Speak Peace unto the Nations” was a more Christian attitude than blithely bombing people with whom we aren’t at war. But I’m only a Quaker.

Lastly, as Zbigniew Brzezinski once pointed out, if you have this much irresponsible escalation and brash talk, there is a real danger some hothead will do something stupid and get us into a war by accident.

So, what do we want? “Strong” fiery bluster with a chance of another war, or a strong cool head? Take your pick.

  • Canadian Lynx

    I was wondering when you’d come back from your fun trip blogs and get into another political rant!
    Both Romney and Obama didn’t say athing about going in to Syria, did you notice? And when that old ggeezer Shiffer said something about Iran agreeing to talk, the prez said it wasn’t tryue.
    I know u have a bee in your bonnet about Iran, but both candidates said they wouldnt let Irsrael bomb them. Though they said the military option was still on the table. Both candidates. They agreed that Iran is the biggest danger to the USA today. Most likely they already have a bomb.
    And when tdid Zbig say andthing about getting into a war by accident/? I goodgled it and the main thing i came up wwith was the same thing about a war with Iran would last for years and destroy the world ecomony.
    I agree that we are giving to mucyh money to Israel, but Iran is a nation of loose cannons! . Though I liked the prez/s zinger about horses and bayonets. We need more money to be spend on intelligence, thats how to find out the terrorists and also to spy on Iran to find out where theyve got their nukes hid.

    • Cathy Stripe Lester

      Hi Canadian, I DID say I was writing before the debate, didn’t I? I was basing my prediction on what Romney said earlier, when he was more hawkish. The same goes for his remarks about Iran. If you haven’t noticed, it’s re-e-e-e-ally hard to know just what Romney intends, because he keeps saying different things.

      About Iran: Watch this space. I intend to put up another blog quite soon on that topic. Zbig: I heard him say on the Charlie Rose show that we could get into a war by accident. I can’t remember the date: sometime in the spring.

      I agree that we need more and better intelligence, more than battleships! If the main danger to the USA is from terrorists, we need to adapt to meet that danger, and the terrorists aren’t cruising around the High Seas.

      Iran HAS NO nukes. I’d propose that it’s a tad difficult to find something hidden, if the thing doesn’t exist. (But yes, we still need good intelligence!)

  • DaveC

    Let’s start with providing enough protection to keep our Ambassadors from being killed.

    • Cathy Stripe Lester

      Good point Dave, but I suspect the amount of protection ambassadors get depends on what intelligence sees as the threat level. Stevens had been working with the Libyans during their revolution, and the Libyans liked us. Obviously, Libya was seen as relatively safe, but equally obviously someone underestimated the presence of a radical element.

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